Thanksgiving Day can be lost in the trivia--but what does it really mean to us today?

It ought to mean what it meant to those who created this special Day to thank God for his miraculous provision in a new land they had emigrated to after much hardship and death.

What did it mean to them?

Some of these facts may speak to you what it meant to the Scrooby Puritans "Puritans" were believers who purified themselves of the false teachings and worldliness that characterized state churches in the 17th century British society; also called Separatists, and later "Pilgrims, meaning they had separated themselves from the worldly state church at that time, which was the Church of England, and they were on a pilgrimage in this world journeying to the City of God).

The last fact may be the most important.*


1. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S.

2. The Plymouth Pilgrims (aka Puritans, or Separatists); they left Britain their home and the Netherlands their temporary refuge seeking religious freedom in a new land where the King of England and the State Church of England would not be able to persecute them so bitterly as they had back in Scrooby, England; their civil contract was religious, as it established the first civil state or government based on religious freedom and the declared intention to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God to all the world! This civil/religious contract (covenant) they all signed, known as the "Mayflower Compact" was the basis among other charters for the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In this Covenant or Compact, God was named as the chief authority over them and all men. The colony was formed, as they declared in their own written Compact, not for the commercial reasons that British investors had formed the company that sent the Pilgrims out, but for "the glory of God" and the Gospel.

3. The Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to reach America (enduring tremendous storms and sickness in cramped quarters below deck all the way, as well as bitter persecution from one of the atheistic sailors); they left the ship and landed December 11, 1620, at Plymouth Rock (the rock is still preserved, though chipped down by tourists to a much smaller rock than it originally was).

4. The Pilgrims sailed on the ship known as the "Mayflower." It was not a cruise ship, it was not luxurious in any sense, it was a tiny ship, leaky, all wood, sailed, and carried both non-Christians passengers and Pilgrims to the New World, with a crew that was ungodly and even blasphemous.

7. They celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in the fall of 1621.

8. They celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day at Plymouth, Massachusetts (not a town, but a settlement from scratch they started themselves).

9. The Wampanoag Indians were the people who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land.

10. The Pilgrim leader, Governor William, leader of the 41 survivors, organized the first Thanksgiving feast in the year 1621 and invited the neighboring Wampanoag Indians also to the feast.

11. The first Thanksgiving feast was held in the presence of around 90 Wampanoag Indians and the chief, Massasoit, was also invited there. Indians must have outnumbered the Pilgrims present at the first Thanksgiving 2 to 1!

12. The first Thanksgiving lasted three days.

13. President George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in the year 1789 and again in 1795.

14. The State of New York officially made Thanksgiving Day an annual custom in 1817.

15. Sarah Josepha Hale, an aditor with a magazine, started a Thanksgiving campaign in 1827 and it was a result of her efforts that in 1863 Thansgiving was observed as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.

16. Abraham Lincoln issued a "Thanksgiving Proclamation" on third October 1863 and officially set aside the last Thursday of November as the national day for Thanksgiving.

17. President Franklin D. Roosevelt restored Thursday before last of November as Thanksgiving Day in 1939.

18. Congress passed an official proclamation in 1941 and declared that now onwards it will be observed as a legal holiday on the fourth Thursday of November every year.

19. Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey (a wild bird, very smart and an excellent flier and gamebird) to be the national bird of the United States. The eagle is a carnivore, and a carrion eater too, though the turkey is a seed eater, a much "cleaner" bird in that sense. Thomas Jefferson opposed him. It is believed that Franklin then named the male turkey "tom" to spite Jefferson. But who got the best of the bargain? We did! We got the turkey as the chief bird featured at the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. Eagle anyone? A grinning [Willim Clinton once stood on the Great Seal of the United States set on the floor of the White House; this was for a photo op, but it showed that a turkey was indeed part of the Great Seal, along with the eagle, at least temporarily!--Ed.].

20. The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition began in the 1920's. This may be the most godly thing that New Yorkers celebrate each year!

21. Californians are the largest consumers of turkey in the U.S.

22. When the Pilgrims arrived in North America, the clothing of Native Americans was made of animal skins (mainly deerskins). Many went stark naked, perhaps to avoid putting smelly animal skins on their bodies! The Pilgrims brought advanced weaving skills (in England, men were expert weavers as well as the women), and woven clothes of many colors, with ribbons and other pretty adornments were worn by both men and women (the Puritans were not dressed in black as they are often portrayed, they loved color and finery).

23. By the fall of 1621 only half of the Pilgrims, who had sailed on the Mayflower, survived. The survivors, thankful to be alive, decided to give a Thanksgiving feast in order to enjoy God's blessings and also invite their Indian neighbors and enjoy the food and fellowship together (evidencing "true diversity" that came about by Christian believers, not a government program set up for political purposes).


"DRIVETHRU AMERICA" is a CD offered by Focus on the Family that will make a great gift at Thanksgiving and Christmas. TBN has featured this series many times, and the American segment is especially meaningful to Americans during these observances. The series also teaches us how our nation was founded by the Pilgrims and Pilgrims on godly foundations and for the sake of promoting the Gospel and for the glory of God--not the strict commercial reasons given in public school textbooks.

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